Tennis: Edberg joins exodus

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The Independent Online
THOUGH BEST known as a slip- road to next week's lucrative Volvo Monte Carlo Open, the clay courts of the Parc Imperiale, home of the Philips Nice Open, have played host to nearly all the greats in the tennis pantheon.

And after his 6-2, 7-5 semi-final victory over Stefan Edberg, Marc Gollner, the 22-year-old son of a German diplomat, can apply to join the list. The reward is a final against Ivan Lendl, a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Fabrice Santoro in the day's second semi-final.

Born in Rio de Janeiro and coached for the past three years by the former German pro Andreas Maurer, Gollner has taken time to make his mark, but a win over Santoro in Barcelona last week suggested that he had benefited from being part of the German Davis Cup squad which won in Moscow last month.

Forced to qualify because his 97 ranking, Gollner has played seven matches in Nice for the loss of only one set. Using a big serve and a power-packed forehand to great effect, he crushed the normally solid Argentine Guillermo Perez- Roldan 6-0, 6-2 in the quarters and never allowed Edberg to settle. From the first game, Edberg was forced to bend low for first volleys and watch helplessly as he was passed with well judged backhand service returns. Soon the lack of bite on Edberg's second serve gave Gollner the chance - which he took brilliantly with a cross court backhand pass - to add to the demise of top names. Previously, Goran Ivanisevic had lost to Perez-Roldan, Boris Becker to Franco Davin, and Petr Korda to Lend.

Unlike these fallen stars, Gollner will not be allowed to continue his dream in Monte Carlo. Ranked too low to gain direct entry, he asked the tournament director for a wild card but was refused. Unfortunately for Gollner, this was before he had beaten Edberg. Now it is too late.